Dorset

Wareham toddler death lorry driver cleared of charge

Jaiden Mangan Image copyright Family handout
Image caption Jaiden Mangan died on the eve of what would have been his fourth birthday

A lorry driver who killed a toddler on a pedestrian crossing when he went through a red light has been cleared of causing death by dangerous driving.

Dean Phoenix, 44, hit three-year-old Jaiden Mangan in Wareham, Dorset, in March 2018.

He told jurors he was trying to manoeuvre around an illegally-parked car and had not seen the lights at the crossing change.

Phoenix admitted a lesser charge of causing death by careless driving.

Image copyright Dorset Police
Image caption Dean Phoenix was "frustrated" when he found his lorry was blocked by a parked car, the court heard

Jaiden, who would have turned four the next day, was on a balance bike and accompanied by his mother and sister when he was struck at about 08:40 BST in North Street.

Phoenix, of Cibbons Road, Chineham, near Basingstoke, had been working since midnight and admitted he was "frustrated" when he found his Sainsbury's lorry was blocked by a car parked on zig-zag lines.

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Media captionCCTV footage shows Jaiden with his mum and sister on the pavement

He told Bournemouth Crown Court a bus coming from the other direction could not get round him, prompting him to pull his lorry forward onto the crossing.

Phoenix said he could not see the traffic lights because of his position in the road, but assumed they were still green as the bus had just gone through.

He said it had been "a mistake" not to check the lights properly and was a decision he made in "a split second".

Image copyright Lee Dolbear
Image caption Jaiden was hit by the lorry in North Street, Wareham

The jury was shown dashcam footage which the prosecution said showed Phoenix being "sarcastic" by making a clapping gesture towards another motorist in the moments before the crash.

His defence barrister argued the actions of pensioner Graham Booker, who had parked his car on the zig-zag lines, had "contributed to the situation".

Booker, 71, of North Street, Wareham, admitted motoring offences in relation to the crash at a separate hearing in November. He was fined £380 and given a three-year driving ban.

Speaking after the verdict, Dorset Police said Booker had played a "massive part" in the tragedy, while Phoenix should have taken extra care.

Insp Joe Pardey said: "A few simple checks could have and should have avoided this death."

Phoenix will be sentenced on Friday.

Image caption Graham Booker previously admitted leaving his car parked at a pedestrian crossing

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